RIDGECREST, N.C. (BP)–Matt Overton, a high school senior from Gallatin, Tenn., prepared for a summer afternoon of extreme sports at Centrifuge camp in Ridgecrest, N.C. As he checked out the location of his next sports gig, someone yelled his name from the sand volleyball court.
“I just met that guy several hours ago,” Overton explained. “That’s what Centrifuge is all about -– becoming friends with like-minded Christians in a matter of hours. It’s awesome.”
While Overton and other Centrifuge participants enjoyed morning Bible studies and afternoon adventure recreation, other campers opted for an XFuge missions track that sent them on local ministry assignments such as painting a children’s home, delivering meals to senior adults and feeding the homeless at a local church.
Jesse Bowling, a member of New Prospect Baptist Church in Hurt, Va., participated in the XFuge on Mission track and spent an afternoon feeding the homeless at First Baptist Church in Asheville, N.C.
“As Christians we are called to out go to the less fortunate,” said Bowling, who was one of hundreds of students who chose the missions track. “If we don’t witness then we don’t have purpose.”
The build-your-own camp experience that offers essentially three camps — Centrifuge, XFuge and XFuge on Mission — at one location is a new model for the student ministry team at LifeWay Christian Resources. The inaugural combo camp launched June 24-29 at LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center with a sellout student crowd of 1,900.
The camp featured combined morning and evening performances from Christian band Big Daddy Weave, The Skit Guys, and messages from Tony Merida, associate professor of preaching and dean of chapel at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
The triple camp prototype brought in the largest group to Ridgecrest in more than a decade, sparking a fitting prelude to the 30th anniversary of Centrifuge slated for summer 2008.
“This is the largest event we have had in 29 years and I am amazed at how smoothly it has run,” said Joe Palmer, director of LifeWay’s student events, who quickly credited the camp staff for the successful week. “In 1979 when Centrifuge began, we never dreamed that we could fill up the whole camp. Now we’ve taken over the entire Ridgecrest campus.
“To have more than 1,900 kids in one location is a dream come true,” said Palmer, who added that LifeWay’s student ministry team has provided camps this summer for more than 85,000 students.
The growth of Centrifuge within the last five years has been remarkable, said Joe Hicks, LifeWay camp specialist. His ties to Centrifuge began in 1979 as a camper at the introductory camp in Glorieta Conference Center in New Mexico.
“I remember sitting in the back of Spilman Auditorium [at Ridgecrest] during a camp five years ago and thinking to myself, ‘It would be incredible to fill every seat in this place.’ When I walked into Spilman for the first camp worship service for this week and saw that there were no empty seats, I knew that this night represented great things to come for Centrifuge.”
FUGE WITH A TRIPLE THREAT
Centrifuge offers an intimate small-group approach to Bible study, team-building exercises and interest track times such as photography, jewelry making and adventure recreation. It is designed for students entering grades seven through college and “is the staple of LifeWay’s camp ministries that allow group leaders to invest in the lives of the campers,” Palmer said.
“For 30 years, Centrifuge has been about relationships and it has been a successful model,” he said.
XFuge camps focus on the group-teaching approach and add a missions aspect to the camp week. Mission projects include volunteering in children’s homes, ministering at retirement centers and working with homeless shelters. XFuge also features top youth speakers, popular bands and drama teams.
In 2008, LifeWay will offer eight camps featuring simultaneous offerings of Centrifuge, XFuge and XFuge on Mission. Three events will be held at Ridgecrest Conference Center and five at Glorieta Conference Center, near Santa Fe, N.M. The Glorieta camp will also feature MFuge.
THE CAMPER’S PERSPECTIVE
First-time Centrifuge camper Mary Bastin, a high school senior and member of First Baptist Church in Gallatin, Tenn., followed the traditional Centrifuge track that focused on small-group devotions, adventure recreation and staff-led Bible studies. She said the week enriched her spiritual walk.
“God has shed a lot of light into my life,” said Bastin, who will study music at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, Tenn., this fall. “Centrifuge has been informative, yet entertaining. The teachers are great and the Bible study group time is very meaningful. I would encourage any student to come to camp if the Lord lays it on their heart.
“At first, I was apprehensive to come because I am the oldest girl in my group, but it turned out for the best because I was able to have many meaningful conversations with others in my own youth group.
Overton, the Gallatin, Tenn., high school senior and a six-year veteran of Centrifuge camps, said the highlight of each camp is learning from students from other churches. “It’s also a way to get away from the world and get alone with God,” he added.
“Students should realize that they need to get out of their comfort zone and camp is a great way to do that,” he said. “Through the years, the camps have been life-changing for me and they have been something that I have looked forward to every year.
“Every time I leave Fuge, I want the camp experience to stay with me all year,” he added. “Fuge has been a spiritual booster. I would encourage anyone to come to camp. MFuge is about serving and Centrifuge is about fun and spiritual growth. Both are great,” he said.
Overton said the evening sermons on holiness most influenced his spiritual growth.
“Holiness is an issue for everyone,” he said. “I realize that as I get older in my group, the younger students look up to me so I want to represent Christ the best I can.”
Encouraging young people to serve the Lord, Overton cautioned against the ills of comfort, “whether it is at work or at school.”
“I would encourage students to grow in the Lord and step out of their comfort zones. My student minister always reminds us, ‘Greatest is the one who serves.’ Service may not always be fun, but it’s necessary.”
The Centrifuge, XFuge and XFuge on Mission camps will be held at Ridgecrest on the following 2008 dates: June 16-21 featuring Rob Turner and Vicky Beeching; June 23-28 featuring Dave Edwards and Rush of Fools; and July 7-11 featuring Ergun Caner and Todd Agnew. The combo camps will be available at Glorieta (with an MFuge option) on the following 2008 dates: June 9-14 featuring Greg Pinkner and Charlie Hall; June 16-21 Jeremy Kingsley and Joel Engle; June 23-28 featuring Tony Merida and Addison Road; June 30-July 5 featuring Tony Merida and Addison Road; July 7-12 featuring Wes Hamilton and Daniel Doss Band.
To learn more about all 2008 Fuge camps, visit www.lifeway.com/fuge/register2008.asp.